Visa Inc. said it won't stop customers from using its services to buy guns in the United States.
The CEO of Visa, the world's dominant credit card outside China, said the company will continue to facilitate gun purchases as long as it remains legal for Americans to buy firearms. Visa acts as a payment processor for purchases.
In contrast, other payment companies such as PayPal and Square don't allow their services to be used for gun purchases. Mastercard, however, has taken a position similar to that of Visa's as regards the self-regulation of gun purchases.
"We are guided by the federal laws in a country, and our job is to create and to facilitate fair and secure commerce," Visa Chairman and CEO Alfred Kelly told CNBC. "We shouldn't tell people they can't purchase a 32-ounce soda. We shouldn't tell people they can't buy reproductive drugs."
Visa's stand on its role in facilitating gun purchases hasn't changed over the past year.
Kelly's comments come in the wake of the mass shootings at El Paso, Texas on Aug. 3 and Dayton, Ohio on Aug. 4. An avowed racist and white supremacist shot dead 22 persons (including Mexicans and Hispanics) in El Paso, while the Dayton murderer shot dead nine people. Both used semi-automatic rifles purchased using credit cards.
Kelly said the onus of keeping Americans safe from gun violence lies with the U.S. Congress that "needs to do their job."
"The reality is that it's very hard for us to do it ... If we start to get in the mode of being legislators it's a very slippery slope," noted Kelly. "We shouldn't be determining what's right or wrong in terms of people's purchases."
Visa will continue to "follow the laws of the land," he pointed out.
Mastercard holds a similar opinion and its CEO, Ajay Banga, said it's not his company's place to dictate what consumers can and cannot buy. Banga also doesn't think his personal beliefs should guide how he operates his company's vast business.
On the other hand, Alan Patricof (founder of venture capital firm Greycroft) has said he's in favor of tighter gun control laws. He said more company leaders need to "come out and massively say, 'We've got to do something about this.'"
Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted he's "heartbroken" over the shootings at El Paso and Dayton.
One of the most vocal appeals for credit card companies to step in and stop processing gun buys came from The New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin in 2018. Sorkin suggested restricting the ways people can pay for guns. He first made this suggestion in early 2018 after a shooter killed 17 people at South Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
"What if the finance industry -- credit card companies like Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, credit card processors like First Data; and banks like JPMorgan Chase JPM, and Wells Fargo -- were to effectively set new rules for the sales of guns in America?" he wrote.
"Collectively, they have more leverage over the gun industry than any lawmaker. And it wouldn't be hard for them to take a stand."
This article originally appeared in IBTimes US.